Star directors buy Los Angeles cinema with plan for 'Coolest AV Club'

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Star directors buy Los Angeles cinema with plan for 'Coolest AV Club'
The director Jason Reitman in a hotel room in New York on Nov. 4, 2009. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

by Nicole Sperling



NEW YORK, NY.- With the moviegoing experience under threat from streaming services and ever-improving home entertainment options, a group with a passionate interest in its preservation — three dozen filmmakers who create their works for the big screen, to be enjoyed in the company of large audiences — has decided to do something about it.

The group of directors, led by Jason Reitman — whose films include “Juno,” “Up in the Air” and “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” — announced Wednesday that it had bought the Village Theater in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, which was put up for sale last summer to the concern of film buffs. The group, which also includes Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, Lulu Wang and Alfonso Cuarón, among others, plans to restore the 93-year-old movie palace, which features one of the largest screens in Los Angeles.

“I think every director dreams of owning a movie theater,” Reitman said in an interview. “And in this case, I saw an opportunity to not only save one of the greatest movie palaces in the world, but also assembled some of my favorite directors to join in on the coolest AV club of all time.”

The announcement of the directors group buying the Village Theater, which has long been a favorite venue for premieres, follows on the heels of Quentin Tarantino’s recent purchase of the Vista Theater in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Feliz.

Once renovated, the Village Theater will showcase a mixture of first-run films and repertory programming curated by the group. The collective also intends to keep the theater open while plans for a restaurant, bar and gallery are finalized. Reitman said that the group was in talks with existing exhibitors about management of the day-to-day operations of the theater, but did not reveal who.

The Village Theater was put up for sale last summer for $12 million, and the filmmakers — many of whom are alumni of nearby UCLA — were fearful it would be torn down and turned into condominiums or a space for retail. The existential threat about the future of theatrical moviegoing also loomed over this endeavor.

“We’re at a crossroads moment, and streaming has brought so much ease to home entertainment that I think we often forget how fun it is to go to the movies,” Reitman said. “I think what this group of directors is dedicated to is giving audiences not only the best picture and sound but the perfect night out and a reminder of how much we just love going into movies and seeing films collectively.”

Rian Johnson and Guillermo Del Toro were the first people to say yes, he said. Nolan wanted to know if they were going to keep the theater’s 70-mm projector.

All 36 directors, which also include Bradley Cooper, Gina Prince-Bythewood and Justin Lin, have a financial stake in the theater. Many plan to showcase artifacts from their personal collections. Chris Columbus, the director of the first two Harry Potter films and “Mrs. Doubtfire,” intends to share his extensive collection of 16-mm film prints.

The purchase of the theater is the latest in a series of new openings and renovations of movie theaters around Los Angeles. In addition to Tarantino’s Vista Theater, which reopened in November, the 101-year-old Egyptian Theater was bought by Netflix in partnership with the nonprofit American Cinematheque and refurbished last year. A popular video rental store, Vidiots, bought and restored the Eagle Theatre.

“All across LA we’re seeing neighborhoods embrace theaters that offer fresh programming, real personality and a sense of community,” Johnson, director of the “Knives Out” franchise, said in a statement. “That’s where the moviegoing experience is flourishing.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.










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